When it comes to casts in films few can surpass the star power in The Judge. Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall, Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Dax Shepard all star in this film, and not a single one fails to hit the mark in their performances. The film is directed by David Dobkin and it provides a more dramatic turn then his previous directoral outings such as The Wedding Crashes and The Change-Up. So what's the film all about then...
Big city lawyer Hank Palmer (Robert Downey Jr) returns from Chicago to his childhood hometown following the passing of his mother. Due to a fractured relationship he is given the gold shoulder by family. When his father, the town's judge, is involved in a car crash, and suspected of murder, Hank must return to discover the truth and reconnect to his estranged family.
As we mentioned at the top of this review this film is lined with fantastic actors and many are at the top of their game not least of which is Robert Duvall who has a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance here, and deservedly so. His performance here is simply brilliant and he takes us on an emotional rollercoaster through the film as you see the highs as a judge and the lows of lows with a certain bathroom incident - which also then becomes somewhat comedic. Robert Downey Jr also puts in a great performance as a man simply wanting his fathers' respect and to make up for his past. Also impressive is Billy Bob Thornton as Prosecutor Dwight Dickham with some superb moments during the trial scenes in particular.
Where The Judge faltered slightly was the mixture of focus and storylines. Is it a film about a court case, is it a film about reconnecting with a family, or is it a film about past indiscretions. Fortunately with a runtime of 145 minutes the film has enough time to explore all these aspects and never feels rushed (the first cut of the film ran for around 4 hours so we can imagine how much was ultimately left out). Even with that runtime however it feels like we are only seeing moments of the court case, and only touching on Hank's childhood days and reasons for leaving the town, and feels a little rushed after the conclusion of the courtroom drama.
Ultimately The Judge feels a little uneven and jumpy - is it a film about a court case, or a family however it remains an entertaining journey filled with superb actors and performances. If you haven't seen the film, it's one to add to your viewing list.
The Blu-Ray for The Judge comes with a gorgeous transfer that brings with it a natural looking transfer, with realistic colours and flesh tones and wonderful fine detail. Unsurprisingly the video is encoded using the AVC MPEG-4 codec and the film is presented at the films original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. At times the film reverts to some older film based footage which is deliberately degraded and presented in a 4:3 aspect ratio.
Beyond the primary lossless track the only other audio option on this Blu-Ray is an English Desriptive Narration for the Vision Impaired which is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448kbps. While not as clear as the lossless track it's decent enough and nice to have surround sound. The only subtitle track is an English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired and is accurate to the dialogue in the film.
Upon starting this disc there are trailers for The One I Love (1:52), Bill Murray's St. Vincent (2:32), and the documentary Keep On Keepin' On (2:09). Beyond that there are a few other Bonus Features worth your time.
Audio Commentary: Director David Dobkin runs solo in this track and provides a consistent track that provides plenty of detail about the development of the film, from locations, to scripting, to music and actors. It's all covered in a decent solo effort.
Inside The Judge (22:16/HD): This is a great video with the key actors and filmmakers discuss creating The Judge, rehersals, reminiscing about key scenes, working with the legendary Robert Duvall, and some amusing moments from the set including Dax Shepard's coffee cup. Definately worth a watch.
Getting Deep with Dax Shepard (9:21/HD): Actor Dax Shepard does up some interviews with the cast while on the set - light hearted and amusing.
Deleted Scenes (18:28/HD): These are the same deleted scenes as those above, but without the audio commentary.
Review By: Dave Warner